Exclusive: Ballem bashes media, promotes city trash manager

On Sept. 11, Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem sent a memo to staff to defend acting sanitation manager Mike Zupan from reports in The Province about the hiring of a Hells Angel as a trashman. A day later, Zupan was promoted to manager of sanitation operations. That’s the way Penny rolls. 

This, despite an internal staff report that I published, which shows widespread anger among the sanitation department rank-and-file over bad management. The staff survey even includes allegations of rule-breaking and nepotism!

While Ballem mentions in her memo that civic hiring practices are “aligned with legislation,” one can reasonably wonder if they’re also aligned with the interests of the public. Specifically, are reasonable efforts undertaken by city hall to ensure that those hired by the city can be trusted to do the public’s work, on the public’s dime, regardless of their past? 

Ballem writes that the city has unspecified “safeguards and controls in place” to prevent organized crime from being affiliated with the city and that “we have no evidence of any involvement of organized crime in our organization. We are in close touch with (Vancouver Police Department) and they have not indicated any concern in this regard.”
The city’s corporate hiring policy states that only so-called “positions of trust” — involving contact with vulnerable people, security and safety of people and assets, regulation and inspection or handling cash — require police record checks, credit record checks and enhanced reliability checks. Evidently, that didn’t apply to garbage collector Ronaldo Lising.
Penny Ballem
See Ballem’s full memo below, followed by the memo announcing Zupan’s promotion (and an important note to readers at bottom). 

From: City Managers Broadcast Account

Sent: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 3:02 PM

To: All Staff (COV) – DL
Subject: COV Broadcast: Message from the City Manager
Dear Colleagues across the City of Vancouver,
I am writing to all our staff today in regards to an article in today’s edition of the Province newspaper.  This article is a follow up to one that ran on August 26 regarding the employment of a particular individual in Sanitation who is allegedly affiliated with the Hells Angels. In my response to the media in August, I indicated that we would be carefully reviewing that situation.  We hire hundreds of regular and auxiliary staff every year across the City departments, Boards and Agencies.  As we have indicated previously, we take the integrity of our hiring process very seriously and we continue to work to improve this very important function in our organization. The issue of organized crime being in any way affiliated with any organization is a serious risk and we have many safeguards and controls in place to prevent that from happening and we have no evidence of any involvement of organized crime in our organization. We are in close touch with VPD and they have not indicated any concern in this regard.
Our hiring practices are aligned with legislation – Human Rights Code, Labour Relations Code, Privacy legislation and related regulations and case law – and we have a very diverse and talented work force of which we are very proud.
However I am very concerned and dismayed about the unsubstantiated and irresponsible allegations and innuendo reported in the media today which is allegedly coming from our staff (and some of our retired staff) regarding Mike Zupan, our Acting Manager of Sanitation. I want to be very clear that Mike Zupan has the full confidence of this organization and there is absolutely no evidence that he had any previous relationship with Ronaldo Lising. His work with the City of Vancouver over the last 20 years has been exemplary.
Sanitation is an area where there is much change ahead, some of which is imposed on us through legislation while other elements are part of our overall goals for zero waste. We have an excellent leadership team which is working with many other parts of the organization to move changes along in a constructive, transparent way, and in a way which meets the needs of our citizens as well as our staff.  I know I can count on all of you to keep focused on our goals and work together productively toward serving our public which is why we all work for the City. Thank you. pb
Penny Ballem, MD, FRCP
City Manager
City of Vancouver
Cell:  604.551.XXXX
Fax:  604.873.7641
From: ENG All Staff Broadcast
Sent: Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:10 AM
To: ENG All Staff (COV) – DL
Subject: Staff Announcement
I am very pleased to announce that Mike Zupan is our successful candidate in the recent competition for the Manager of Sanitation Operations.  Mike brings over 20 years of experience in progressively responsible positions with the City to his new role.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mike over the past 1 ½ years since I joined the City and continue to be impressed by his dedication and commitment to moving forward, adapting to change and making things better in the areas in which he is working. For the past 8 months Mike has been doing an excellent job as Acting Manager and has successfully implemented and number of changes in the branch to improve operations, employee engagement and overall morale within the branch.   I look forward to continuing to work with Mike in his new role as we continue to navigate the significant changes underway in Sanitation.  Please join me in congratulating Mike on his new role.
Albert Shamess
Director – Waste Management and Resource Recovery
City of Vancouver

IMPORTANT NOTE TO READERS: Is Vancouver city manager Penny Ballem on the ball or is she out to lunch? Is Vancouver city hall really a gleaming example of the ideal government workplace, free of corruption or has it gone “Montreal-style” and been infiltrated by organized (or disorganized) crime? If you have proof of organized crime, fraud or other corruption at Vancouver city hall, any of its departments or agencies (or, for that matter, any federal, provincial, civic or aboriginal government office), please contact me here. I also gladly accept confidential, brown paper envelopes (addressed to me) at this address and that address

News and views on Vancouver 2010 (and beyond) from Bob Mackin.

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